A Homegrown Guide To The Most Popular Indian Speakeasies

A Homegrown Guide To The Most Popular Indian Speakeasies

There is a certain romance that many of us old souls find in being able to say that we are living in the 20s. While we aren’t facing any alcohol prohibition and can drink our nights away (if we choose to), there is still a resurgence of speakeasies across the nation. While most of these are simply thematic, others truly lean deeper to be concealed institutions that you enter through an alternate entryway and offer up moonshines and hooches.

Whether you are seeking a simply thematic speakeasy experience or an authentic one, the following are some of the ventures across the nation to visit, dressed in your Great Gatsby best: 

I. 10 Speakeasy, Bangalore

As is illustrated by its name 10 Speakeasy is upfront about what it is. Discreetly concealed behind a paan shop, accessible only with a secret passcode, 10 - Bangalore's latest addition to the burgeoning speakeasy scene is an experiential space shrouded in mystery and sophistication. Architect Anshul Chodha has designed a space that transports patrons to the era of the Great Gatsby, featuring a 40-foot bar and a hidden world elevated with golden lights, jazz melodies, and an air of exclusivity. The opulent interiors, adorned with chandeliers, plush sofas, and a floor-to-rooftop gold-lit bar, evoke the ambience of a bygone era. The absence of large windows and an open roof intensifies the sense of seclusion, allowing guests to revel in mystery and nostalgia.

Crafted by renowned mixologist Yangdup Lama, 10's cocktails are a highlight, featuring creations like the velvety Vanilla Daiquiri and a Walnut-infused Old Fashioned. The culinary offerings include Asian-inspired dishes such as Vegetarian California Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, and Grilled Harissa Prawns, all perfectly complementing their exquisite drink selection.

For those who love jazzy music and dressing up, 10 offers an experience unlike traditional Bangalore bars. The venue operates as a well-kept secret and once initiated, patrons are encouraged to stay connected through the speakeasy's Instagram page for updated passwords. 10 offers glitz, glamour, top-notch cocktails, and delectable food every time, in addition to the experience of being part of a unique cultural institution and community that goes beyond a simple visit.

Follow them here.

II. Slink and Bardot, Mumbai

Situated in an unassuming location in Mumbai, Slink & Bardot is a speakeasy and restaurant that has earned its place among the 50 best restaurants globally since its establishment in 2017. Originally an electronic music venue, it has transformed into a French cuisine destination and bar, lauded for its unique ambience and culinary offerings.

Initially designed by Pavitra Rajaram, the space featured four distinct rooms, each with its own mood. The bar, with its velvet seating and verdant wallpaper, offers a dark and intimate setting. The menu, curated by Parisian chef Alexis Gielbaum and manager Nick Harrison, delivers French delights with an innovative twist, using predominantly Indian ingredients. The eclectic drink selection ranges from light and fruity to darker and broodier concoctions, incorporating ingredients like kaffir lime leaves and turmeric. The restaurant, priced competitively, challenged the notion of French cuisine being exclusive and expensive, from the get-go. Their signature dishes include the herb-crusted Australian lamb chops and the creatively composed steak tartare. The libations, such as the unique Monkey Gland and Japanese Old Fashioned, add to the overall experience.

Following a pandemic-induced hiatus, Slink & Bardot has made a triumphant return in September 2022, helmed now by restaurateur Vicky Singh and chef Aliakbar Baldiwala. The revamped space boasts deeper hues, slick bars, and a secret cigar room. The menu offers a global fusion, featuring dishes like Quail Egg With Tamagoyaki Foam and Beef 'floss' inspired by Bohri Cuisine. The cocktail selection, crafted by mixologist Santosh Kukreti, showcases innovative concoctions, including a jackfruit cocktail and the Meloma - a mezcal and tequila delight. With its refreshed ambience and diverse culinary offerings, Slink & Bardot caters to its patrons who are seeking a sophisticated yet lively dining experience. 

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III. ZLB23, Bangalore

The elusive ZLB 23, tucked away inside The Leela Palace Hotel in Bangalore, demands a trek through dimly lit vaults and verdant spaces. The space, adorned with luxe decor, offers a unique experience with changing musical performances and impromptu jive shows. The gatekeeper, Zia, holds the key, accessible through the space's Instagram page. For those seeking a taste of the luxe life, ZLB 23 promises a sojourn into a world of glamour and exclusive indulgence.

ZLB 23 offers an up-close experience into the Prohibition era, curated by the mysterious keeper of secrets, Zia. The hidden entrance, and the lavish bar featuring velvet curtains, crystal chandeliers, and a moody ambience designed by Shruti Jaipuria of MAIA Designs transport guests to a bygone era of indulgence.

The menu at ZLB 23 is a celebration of oriental flavours, particularly Japanese, with a focus on lost recipes from the East. Led by an all-women team, the space offers an exclusive experience, blending curated music, remarkable dining, and prohibition-era-inspired cocktails. The libations, curated by skilled mixologists, boast unique flavours and stories, such as the Pale Man and Kyoto Sunrise, each a fusion of classic and futuristic elements. The unique cocktails such as Monkey Gland and the Japanese Old Fashioned steal the show through their presentation, featuring Tenjaku Japanese whisky and smoked tableside theatrics.

The culinary offerings include seafood delights like Sea Bass Ceviche and innovative Kataifi-Wrapped Lobster Bites With Laksa. Finger foods, a speakeasy tradition, shine with the Burrata and Broccoli Toast, a creamy and crunchy delight, or the Hickory Smoked Duck packed with bold heat and umami. 

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IV. Pass Code Only, Delhi and Mumbai

Pass Code Only, India's pioneering speakeasy, first opened its doors in Delhi in 2012, captivating patrons with its themed setting and menu. Founded by award-winning bartender Yangdup Lama, and the siblings Rakshay and Radhika Dhariwal, renowned for their Pass Code Hospitality ventures, the bar requires guests to input a secret passcode at an inconspicuous phone booth, a nod to the prohibition era's clandestine practices. The Delhi PCO Bar interiors evoke the 1900s, creating an intimate and timeless atmosphere. The menu boasts a rotating selection of exquisite cocktails, with standouts like the citrusy Clovers Club and the shiso-infused Bees Knees.

In 2021, Pass Code Only expanded to Mumbai, with an 80-seater bar nestled in Lower Parel. The Mumbai launch marked the return of the much-loved cocktail bar after a pandemic-induced hiatus. The Mumbai space, influenced by Art Deco aesthetics, features an inviting bar and private dining room with design cues that enhance its tropical allure. As a venture, Pass Code Only's commitment to offering an elevated dining experience, blending elegant yet playful cocktails with delectable bites from its associated restaurants Saz and Ping's. Executive chef Hanoze Shroff, a Bombay native, oversees the culinary delights at the Mumbai outpost, ensuring a seamless fusion of flavours. The Mumbai location maintains the speakeasy's essence, requiring a passcode for entry and eschewing the typical club ambience, but opting for a more laid-back jazz playlist.Pass Code Only's continuing success in two major cities underscores its enduring appeal and dedication to delivering a unique blend of atmosphere, innovative libations, and culinary excellence.

As the first of its kind in India, its continued success is also a 'nod' to the demand for more Speakeasy experiences in the country.

Follow them here.